The highs and lows of the 2023 Formula One season

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Now the season is over, it is clear it has been one which, at least statistically, has never been seen before.

A season of two halves

When I think of teams who have had a season of both major highs and lows, I’m hard pressed to think of a more extreme example than McLaren in 2023. It looked for everyone like the season was over before it had even started for the Papaya outfit. Now McLaren veteran, Lando Norris was forced to make 6 pit stops at the season opener in Bahrain coming home in an unimpressive 17th. Whilst highly anticipated rookie Oscar Piastri must have been regretting his previous season’s decision to snub to Alpine to join the Woking-based team.  His debut lasted just 13 uninspiring laps before an electronics issue ended his race. After the race, Norris easily summarised the team’s immense disappointment saying, “We had too many issues.” Team Principal Andrea Stell stated it was “not the start of the season for which we were hoping,” an understatement if anything.

Nobody back then would have foreseen that by the penultimate round, McLaren would sit 4th in the constructors’ standings with 9 podiums to their name. Zak Brown, the team CEO, gave testament to the team’s phenomenally hard work and truly unbelievable turnaround saying it was due to, “great leadership, great teamwork, collaboration, communication and just a hat’s off to everyone back at the factory and at the track.”  I think I speak for the whole F1 community when I say it was hard not to enjoy seeing McLaren doing so well at the end of the season.

It was hard not to enjoy seeing McLaren doing so well at the end of the season

Individual troubles

To contrast the positive fortunes of McLaren, an F1 season is almost never complete without a team who performs well below expectations. This season, however, has seen individual drivers rather than a single team getting the fans sighing. None more so than Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez. Both have produced lacklustre campaigns in machinery that should be pushing them to some of their best performances in the sport.

Stroll has been categorically embarrassed by his much older teammate Fernando Alonso. Lance sits 127 points behind his teammate and has failed to capitalise on Aston Martin’s unexpectedly impressive start to the season. He has failed to step on the podium even once this season, a damming statistic when you consider Fernando has stood above the crowds 8 times.

Arguably, it has been even worse for Sergio Perez. Behind the wheel of what could be the greatest modern Formula one car, Perez has delivered a significant number of truly disappointing performances this season. Winning just 2 races compared to Verstappen’s 17 wins after the Las Vegas Grand Prix. If I included all the statistics that demonstrate Perez has been embarrassingly subpar this season, this article would become a book. The epitomizing statistic that cannot be ignored tough, with one race left to go Perez sits Second in the drivers’ standings but is closer to last place in the championship than his teammate Verstappen above. This has even brought people within his own team to question his abilities. Dr Helmut Marko, leader of the Red Bull driver Programme suggested in October that Perez needed “a change of climate and team”. Not the conclusions you want to be hearing from your own colleagues.

The ‘inevitable’ Max Verstappen

For me, no word sums up Max Verstappen’s season better than inevitable. He has relentlessly been at the forefront of every race and, combined with the ferocious RB19, has reached a level of unstoppable the likes of Hamilton and Schumacher could never command. It is somewhat hard to decide if Max has been a highlight or lowlight this season. I say this only because spending every weekend watching Verstappen disappear down the road whilst others try there hardest to even get within 5 seconds, has not been the most edge of the seat viewing.

No word sums up Max Verstappen’s season better than inevitable

Despite this season not reaching the heights of entertainment seen in previous years, it is hard not appreciate Max Verstappen’s 2023 season. Like we all did with Hamilton, it is difficult not to sit back and appreciate the perfect amalgamation of man and machine at the absolute peak of performance, delivering results previously unheard of in the sport and driving the standard for greatness higher with every apex. Whatever you think of Max Verstappen, Red Bull or even the sport of Formula One, people everywhere will remember the 2023 season along with the Max Verstappen Dynasty for a very long time to come.

Image: Sophie Little

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